Rawlins to Hwy 28, WY
The weather forecast called for thunderstorms all week. We left Rawlins carrying on about how we’d have afternoon showers to cool the hot days across the Great Divide Basin. We were only a few miles down the trail when droplets of water began falling from the sky. It started out as a light sprinkle, quit, and then started again. Neon put on his rain jacket, but I held out thinking it wasn’t really going to rain. It wasn’t much longer before the drops got bigger, more frequent, and the skies got blacker. Then, it seemed with a sudden certainty that we were about to have a very different kind of experience. The skies rumbled and the clamor of what seemed like a Greek lesson in mythology began. Thunder, lightening, and buckets of rain. And that’s when the story changed from what we thought was going to be a hot shadeless day into what turned out to be a Noah’s Ark kind of rain.
The rain kept coming and by late afternoon the sky was so dark it looked like evening. Thunder was loud and close and lightening was all around. Our trail was going up and over every ridge in front of us, but there was no place to stop to wait it out. The rain turned everything to mud, slippery, sticky mud. Our pace slowed to about one mile an hour while we slogged through the slippery pudding-like mud. Every wash turned into a creek. We started to get chilled. It’s funny how things so often turn out so differently than what we imagine they will be. Hot, shadeless, what I thought was going to be a desert, started out with our wettest rain of the entire trek, and turned into a beautiful, shadless, lush, grassland.
Finally our trail took a turn into the hills and the ground got more rocky and less muddy. After a couple more hours we made it to Bull Spring and the most beautiful sage forest I had ever seen. These were not ordinary sage. They were tall, beautiful, and twisted. Hundreds of sage at least eight feet tall. I had no idea they could grow that large. They were all giants compared to any sage I had ever seen before this. We set up our tent in the middle them and crawled in out of the now drizzling rain.
We woke to clear blue skies and easy walking. The miles came and went easily. By mid afternoon the sky in front of us became dark and what looked like the most evil storm I had ever seen loomed on the horizon ahead of us. We stopped for one last sunny break and watched the storm move across the horizon away from us. Storm gone, skies clear, the days passed easily, and then became hot.
Nearing Brenton Springs the ticks got thick. It seemed I was plucking one off my lower legs every quarter mile. It was creepy and kept me jumping at every little tickle I felt. Finding shade was impossible, but more importantly, finding bare ground without ticks became necessary. Our rests breaks were hot, often in a rocky wash, sweating, and swatting away flies. By the time we reached Upper Mormon Springs I had plucked twenty-eight ticks off my legs.
Our trail at this point was coincident with the Oregon Trail. We had long talks about what it might have been like traveling the Oregon Trail, moving across the country. Crossing one of the washes, I looked down, and there was an old Indian arrowhead made out of what looked like amber obsidian. This sent my thoughts whirling about who made it, what their life was like, and what events transpired when they lost it.
We walk for so many reasons and still perhaps we don’t know why we walk. I wonder if those traveling the Oregon Trail every wondered why they left one place to travel such a long and difficult path to reach an unknown life on the other end of their journey. I remember a couple of years ago thinking deeply about why I was walking the Pacific Crest Trail. We were sitting at a picnic table at a roadside trailhead discussing why we were walking so far. A man approached us and asked, “Are you hiking the PCT?” We answered yes and he told us he had hiked it in his youth. We told him that we were just in the middle of asking our selves why we were doing it, when he stopped us and said, “You’re thinking about it too much. Just do it. You will never regret it.” I think about that moment so often. His words ring through my thoughts like a mystery that’s just not meant to be solved. “Just do it! You will never regret it!”